Monday, April 16, 2007

Gaetan Duchesne


That's how coach Bryan Murray described Gaetan Duchesne in just his second season in the National Hockey League. However that label could have been applied to anyone of Duchesne's 14 NHL seasons.

His first season was 1981-82. It was a difficult one for the French speaking kid just out of junior hockey. Not only did he have to adapt to the massive differences between juniors and the NHL, but he had to learn a new language while in another country. Duchesne handled it like a professional though, and got better and better as the season went on.

By year two he was one of the top players in the league in his role - defensive forward. He often teamed Duchesne with fellow defensive stalwarts Doug Jarvis and Bobby Gould to form one of the most effective checking units in hockey.

"I like to play Gaetan against the opposition's best right winger" continued coach Murray. There sure were a lot of good right wingers in the early 1980s too - Bossy, Lafleur, Kurri, Mullen.....

"I can see an almost game-to-game improvement in his play. Experience will only help him. He has certainly yet to reach his peak." Murray continued of the Rejean Houle-clone.

Murray seemed not too concerned about "Gator's" lack of offensive contributions.

"He'll always be an adequate scorer, but never a big scorer. He is a hard working responsible defensive player. I realize there is a tendency for him not to get much credit because he doesn't score. Over the years though, as he gets more experience, he'll get the recognition he deserves."

Murray proved to be right. Duchesne ended up playing in over 1000 NHL games and was highly regarded throughout hockey circles. He was always popular with his teammates, who definitely appreciated his contributions if no one else did.

Duchesne was a long shot to make the NHL, as he wasn't selected until 152nd overall in the 1981 entry draft. However he surprised many by making the immediate jump to the NHL. He ended up playing 6 seasons in the American capital before he was a key ingredient heading to Quebec in the famous Dale Hunter trade.

Despite being highly regarded in his native Quebec because of his tireless work, his stay in Quebec was disappointingly short. After just two seasons he was moved to Minnesota for a low draft pick prior to the 1989 season. It was one of the worst trades in Nords history. Coming off of his worst offensive season since his rookie year, the Nords felt Duke was near the end of his career, and peddled him away. It was a steal for Minnesota, as Duke was a big part of the Stars magical Stanley Cup charge in 1991.

Duchesne stayed with the Stars until expansion took him to San Jose. He spent two years there before re-uniting briefly with Bryan Murray in Florida to finish his career.

After retiring Duchesne returned to Quebec City. First he tried his hand at coaching, with both the Quebec Rafales of the IHL and the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. More recently he and his brother began an architectural supply business in the provincial capital.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the article. - E. Kim

cw said...

RIP Steve

Anonymous said...

This is a very nice post about Gaetan Duchesne, who was my favorite player on my favorite team, the Washington Capitals. Even after "Gator" left the Caps, I continued to follow his career. I was stunned and saddened 2 years ago when I heard of his passing. I'm sure all of his fans around the NHL would appreciate your kind words about him.

Baltimore, MD

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